I wanted to like Ildefonso Falcones’ “The Barefoot Queen.” I really wanted to really love this book. I was attracted by the idea that it was about gypsies in Spain during a period in history I haven’t read much about. It seemed like a sweeping historical fiction of possibly epic proportions.
I didn’t like it, hard as I tried. And I didn’t even finish it.
In the novel, Caridad and Milagros are the two main female characters. Caridad is a former slave who worked on a tobacco plantation in Cuba after being stolen from Africa. She never wears shoes, she often wears a bright red dress, and she sings and dances in the manner of her homeland and the slaves of Cuba. Milagros is the teenage granddaughter of the gypsy patriarch who ends up counting Caridad among his people. Milagros is beautiful, beautiful enough to tempt a priest to betray his vows, and she dances and sings better than most of the girls in the gypsy part of town.
I’d like to think that either Caridad or Milagros is the “barefoot queen” but I read half the book and I still don’t know. It seems like I should know that.
Falcones paints a compelling enough portrait of life as a gypsy in 18th century Spain that I did read half the book. I’m disappointed that I felt more compelled to move on to a different book by the flatness and generally sexuality obsessed nature of the characters than I did to see the story through. It’s not explicit sex but it is safe to say that almost every man in the book has a more than healthy appreciation for the sexual nature of the two main women. It put me off.
But I hope this book is exactly what someone else is looking for.
“The Barefoot Queen” is available for purchase now.
(I received a copy of “The Barefoot Queen” via NetGalley in exchange for an honest & original review. This review will be cross-posted at NetGalley, on my Goodreads account, and on my blog.)